Let’s Build a Flashlight

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Kids will feel like real electricians with this easy project! All you need is a cheap flashlight, the kind you’ve probably picked up at a drugstore or dollar store check-out in the past and have lying around.

I disassembled the flashlight into all of its components and arranged them on a tray so it felt very official, then called Travis over.

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He was so excited when I challenged him to put it together again! At first he was twisting together just the body and the screw cap, without a thought for coils or batteries or other pieces that might need to go inside.

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Hmm… it wouldn’t turn on. What was missing? Now he worked hard to figure out where the coils should go.

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Being allowed to handle the batteries all by himself was super thrilling!

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It took a few tries before he had everything arranged in the right direction.

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He was so proud once a push of the button turned it on!

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This is a great introduction to battery power that even young children can grasp.

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Big Brother and Little Sister Shirts

 

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It’s such an exciting development for my kids that now they can do projects together, as was the case with these brother-and-sister shirts. Obviously you can tailor the shirts to fit your family, whether that means two brothers, three sisters, or even mommy & me shirts!

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I purchased blank white tees at the craft store in the kids’ sizes, and first wrote on the front “I am the little sister” and “I am the big brother” with fabric pens. Note: This is harder than it looks, because the fabric kept pulling!

We then wanted to put Veronika’s footprint on Travis’s shirt. I squirted a little fabric paint onto a sponge and pressed it to her foot, then pressed her foot to the fabric. It didn’t come out completely clear, but Travis loved knowing it’s there! If your big kids want to, have them put handprints on the little sibling’s shirt in the same manner.

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Then the kids loved dabbing the sponge all over the shirts, squirting it first with different colors.

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The fabric markers were running low on ink, but they discovered that they could squirt a little fabric paint onto a shirt and use the tip of the markers as the “paintbrush”.

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They had so much fun making these!

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And they looked adorable wearing them.

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Paper Finger Boomerang

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Having recently tried out a real boomerang, Travis and I brought this little paper version to our home school “recess” today!

To make the boomerang, you’ll need a perfect square. Either measure with a ruler, or cut a piece of paper, fold it in half to form two triangles and then open back up again. Trace onto thin cardboard and cut out.

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Cut out a boomerang shape, making sure to measure the same distance in from each side of the square. Travis decorated with crayons, rounded the corners, and then we were ready to flick!

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We were surprised since we struggled with our store-bought toy, but this little one really does circle back to you! Because it’s so lightweight, you could even use it indoors on a rainy day. Note: We made the holder simply by cutting an additional strip of thin cardboard and folding in half.

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Line Dancing Fun

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Travis is growing tired of class videos we’ve used to get our afternoon wiggles out during home school, so today I turned to Raddish Kids for inspiration. With a musical theme this month, one of the lessons was all about line dancing!

We kept the “lesson” part of it short, since really I just needed to get Travis moving. Big kids can delve further and talk about the genre of Country and any singers or song titles they know. You can also give some history of the genre. Instead, I just focused on common instruments (banjo, fiddle) and explained that line dancing allows dancers to move as a group, instead of with a partner. In other words, it’s meant to be shared!

To get our toes tapping, we listened to clips of the Boot Scottin’ Boogie and Watermelon Crawl. A few quick tutorials from YouTube showed us basic steps like the heel stomp and grapevine. Travis was a little skeptical but then we watched a quick how-to for an Achy Breaky Heart line dance.

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We cranked up the music and danced! Of course, it’s totally fine if your kids make up their own moves.

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For giggles, we finished with a clip of a line dance from Ice Age.

Little Passports: Japan

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Travis’s envelope this month from Little Passports took him to… Japan! There was lots to learn and great hands-on activities in this particular kit. First up was the booklet, full of inventive activities like how to write a Haiku (spoiler: Travis’s was about eating a cookie), and a pictorial three-in-a-row search that was a fantastic alternative to a word search for non-readers.

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Of course there was also a country coin for his coin chart, a stamp for his passport, and a push pin for his world map. Bonus features online included gorgeous photos of Japan, audio recordings of common Japanese words, and a Q&A with a Japanese “pen pal”.

Souvenir:

The adorable sushi erasers that came with the package were a big hit, particularly the fact that they could be disassembled and reassembled. Travis became a mini sushi chef!

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Activities:

The most involved project with this kit was to make a koinobari, a kite in the shape of a carp fish traditionally hung on homes during Japan’s Children’s Day holiday (which falls in May).

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Rather than use the suggested fabric pants, which I worried would be messy, I had Travis use fabric markers.

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We first drew two fish outlines on an old pillow case and colored with the markers, after which I cut them out and hot-glued together on three sides, leaving the top open (alternatively, use fabric glue).

Cut a piece of cardboard from an old cereal box and glue into a loop; attach this at the mouth of the fish with more glue. Punch two holes through the pillow and cardboard, and loop a string through.

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Finally, we glued on ribbons as tail streamers.

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It looked beautiful on our front door.

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Next up was to write in ema wishes on the provided template.

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These wooden tablets, traditionally hung at a Japanese shrine, came just in time for our new era COVID-19. We strung them up along our kitchen window for good luck!

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Of course we had to make origami, too. The package included fun instructions for penguins and jumping frogs.

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The frog could really jump!

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Travis wanted to make a whole army of penguins.

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Finally, he did a cute food match-up game which highlighted all four islands of Japan, and he colored in the flag for the garland begun with his Brazil package.

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Recipe:

The journey is never complete without a recipe, of course. Travis got to make dorayaki, a sweet Japanese pancake.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Canola oil
  • Red bean paste
  • Jam
  1. To start, whisk together the Ener-G eggs, sugar, and agave in a bowl.LP Japan (18)
  2. Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl, stirring until smooth. Continue to stir while adding the water slowly.LP Japan (19)
  3. Heat a large skillet coated with a little canola oil over medium-high heat. Spoon 1/8 cup batter into the skillet per pancake and cook for about 2 minutes, until bubbles cover the tops. Flip and cook for an additional minute. Transfer cooked pancakes to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter.
  4. To serve, spread bean paste between two pancakes and eat sandwich-style! If the bean paste isn’t to your kids’ liking, try jam instead.

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Travis loved eating the dorayaki with a ramen noodle bowl, for a full Japanese meal.

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Outer Space Parachute

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Last summer and fall, Travis and I experimented with a few different ways to make a parachute. For home school “science” today we tried once more, but this time made it outer space-y with a coating of aluminum foil. Travis thought it looked just like the gear used to ease the landing of Mars rovers!

To start, wrap a paper cup in aluminum foil. Travis enjoyed decorating all over with star stickers (in keeping with the theme of course).

Space Parachute (2)Cut a square from a plastic shopping bag, and then use a hole punch to make a hole in each of the four corners (you may need to rip the bag a little bit, too, to help the hole punch through).

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Cut four equal lengths of yarn and tie one to each corner with a knot. Gather these four strands together and push down through a hole in the top of the cup. Make a fat knot so they won’t slip back out.

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Time to launch! My intrepid explorer bravely climbed the stairs.

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Then it was 3, 2, 1: Blast off!

Yarn Snowballs

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These fun indoor “snowballs” are a larger version of homemade pompoms Travis and I recently made for finger puppets. We found this larger version to be much easier than the little fork version!

Cut a U-shape from cardboard (ideally a stiff box cardboard, but even a manila folder worked in a pinch).

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Begin winding white yarn around the U until you have a nice fluffy pile. Wrap a piece of yarn around the center, going through the notch of the U, and double-knot securely. Slide off of the U, then snip all the loops and fluff out.

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Once we had 6 “snowballs”, it was time for a battle.

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For extra amusement, we even set up pillow forts and then had at each other.

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Then Travis wanted to have batting practice against the snowballs, saying this was his defense against my attacks.

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We laughed and dodged and pelted each other for ages with this game! (Thank goodness there wasn’t the icy sting of real snowballs, as we would have been covered in snow).

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Action shot!

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This was one of the best mother-son activities we’ve done to date, and that’s saying a lot.

Balloon Hovercraft

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This balloon activity is a simple but neat way to demonstrate friction. Similar to an old balloon propeller experiment┬áTravis tried, it illustrates Newton’s third law (that for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction). So when the air from the balloon is allowed to escape, the it propels the CD forward. Consider it for a quick science class if you’re homeschooling┬áthis week!

I raided my old CD binder for the project, which had the kids immediately intrigued. This is not technology they see often anymore.

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Hot glue a pop-top water bottle cap to the middle of the CD, making sure the seal is air-tight.

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Fit a balloon over the bottle cap, then blow through the hole in the bottom of the CD to inflate the balloon. This definitely takes some lung power!

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Immediately seal the pop-top. Place the balloon on a flat surface, and lift the pop-top. As the air rushes out, your balloon will go forward, which had big wow factor every time.

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We never managed to create enough energy to have the CD actually lift and hover, but please share in the comments if you do! We did get it to zoom, though, which you can see in this quick clip:

How Music Moves Us

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With social/emotional learning at the forefront of my mind in our new era of social distancing, I was glad to see that Travis’s latest Raddish Kids crate included a lesson on how music effects our moods. (All of the recipes this month have musical themes: stay tuned!). Being able to connect words to emotions is key, now more than ever, and we liked the can-do focus on how music can change or improve your mood.

As he came to the table I asked him: “How are you feeling right now?” He answered that he was feeling tired, but also silly.

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We watched a quick explanation of how music can affect the brain and mood, which had him giggling.

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Next I played him four samples of music, choosing:

  • Classical
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • Heavy Metal
  • Folk

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For each one, he drew a simple face on the provided worksheet that showed how it made him feel. I knew he was goofing off a little, but he decided the classical made him happy, the rock ‘n’ roll made him angry, the heavy metal made him excited, and the folk made him sad. Whether or not this was all true, it was nice to give him vocabulary to think about emotions.

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Now it was time to experiment! First we played the heavy metal, and I let him have at a piece of paper with a paintbrush and watercolors. Then we switched to the classical, to see if there was a difference. Again, it was a little harder for a kindergartner to take this activity seriously. First he just liked making big dark puddles on the paper.

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But then I noticed during the classical he was choosing brighter colors and his brush strokes were slowing down. So perhaps the music had a subconscious effect after all!

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Older kids can explore further, perhaps making a playlist intended to make a family member feel a certain way, or creating a soundtrack to amcertain part of their day. To test this out subtly, we played some energizing songs (i.e. Can’t Stop the Feeling) for clean-up time, and it had everyone in a great mood at a time when the kids normally feel a bit grumpy.

Cupid’s Crouton Salad

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We didn’t have time to make this love-themed recipe from Raddish Kids at Valentine’s Day, but I’m glad of that fact now. It was the perfect recipe to make while “social distancing” with the family at home!. We even dialed-up Raddish’s love-filled Spotify playlist as we cooked, featuring everything from The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love to I Just Called to Say I Love You!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 loaf baguette
  • 3 tablespoons + 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Tear the baguette into small pieces until you have 4 cups of bread. Transfer the bread to a bowl and drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.Cupid's Salad (1)
  2. Spoon the baguette mixture onto a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes. The kids loved watching it toast! Transfer to a large bowl.Cupid's Salad (3)
  3. Meanwhile, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and chop the cucumbers. This was the first time I let Travis use a knife without my hand on the handle to guide, and he was so proud. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil to the bread, then stir in the chickpeas and basil.Cupid's Salad (2)
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Pour the dressing over the bread mixture.

This salad was a huge hit! It’s the first time I’ve gotten Travis to eat chickpeas, and every bit of it was cleared from the plate. There were some fun tidbits to read about the history of this Italian salad on the recipe card, as well as ways to say ‘I love you’ in 6 languages.

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